Pietro Perugino, born Pietro Vannucci, was an Italian Renaissance painter of the Umbrian school, who developed some of the qualities that found classic expression in the High Renaissance. Raphael was his most famous pupil.
He was born Pietro Vannucci in Città della Pieve, Umbria, the son of Cristoforo Vannucci; his nickname characterizes him as from Perugia, the chief city of Umbria. Despite what stated by his biographer Giorgio Vasari, the Vannucci were one of the richest in the town. His exact date of birth is not known, although, basing on his age at the death mentioned by Vasari and Giovanni Santi, it has been dated between 1446 and 1452.
He most likely began to study painting in Perugia, in local workshops such as those of Bartolomeo Caporali or Fiorenzo di Lorenzo. The date of this first Florentine sojourn is unknown; some make it as early as 1466/1470, others push the date to 1479. According to Vasari, he apprenticed in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio alongside Leonardo da Vinci, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Lorenzo di Credi, Filippino Lippi and others. He may have learned perspective from Piero della Francesca. In 1472 he must have completed his apprenticeship, for he was enrolled as a painter in the confraternity of St Luke.
Perugino was one of the earliest Italian practitioners of oil painting. Some of his early works were extensive frescoes for the convent of the Ingessati fathers, destroyed during the siege of Florence; he produced for them also many cartoons, which they executed with brilliant effect in stained glass. A good specimen of his early style in tempera is the tondo (circular picture) in the Musée du Louvre of the Virgin and Child Enthroned between Saints.
Perugino returned from Florence to Perugia, where his Florentine training showed in the Adoration of the Magi for the church of Santa Maria dei Servi of Perugia (c. 1476). In about 1480, he was called to Rome to fresco panels for the Sistine Chapel walls by Sixtus IV including Moses and Zipporah (often attributed to Luca Signorelli), the Baptism of Christ, and Delivery of the Keys. Pinturicchio accompanied Perugino to Rome, and was made his partner, receiving a third of the profits. He may have done some of the Zipporah subject. The Sistine frescoes were the major high Renaissance commission in Rome. The altar wall was also painted with the Assumption, the Nativity, and Moses in the Bulrushes. These works were later destroyed to make a space for Michelangelo's Last Judgement, Perugino, aged forty, left Rome after completion of the Sistine Chapel work in 1486, and by autumn was in Florence. Here he figured in a criminal court case. In July 1487 he and another Perugian painter named Aulista di Angelo were convicted, on their own confession, of having in December waylaid with staves someone (the name does not appear) in the streets near Pietro Maggiore. Perugino merely intended assault and battery, but Aulista meant to commit murder. The more illustrious culprit, guilty of the lesser offence, was fined ten gold florins, and the other was exiled for life.
Between 1486 and 1499 Perugino worked chiefly in Florence, making one journey to Rome and several to Perugia, where he may have maintained a second studio. He had an established studio in Florence, and received a great number of commissions. His Pietà (1483–1493) in the Uffizi is an uncharacteristically stark work that avoids Perugino's sometimes too easy sentimental piety.
In 1499 the guild of the cambio (money-changers or bankers) of Perugia asked him to decorate their audience-hall, the Sala delle Udienze del Collegio del Cambio. The humanist Francesco Maturanzio acted as his consultant. This extensive scheme, which may have been finished by 1500, comprised the painting of the vault with the seven planets and the signs of the zodiac (Perugino being responsible for the designs and his pupils most probably for the execution) and the representation on the walls of two sacred subjects: the Nativity and Transfiguration; in addition, the Eternal Father, the cardinal virtues of Justice, Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude, Cato as the emblem of wisdom, and numerous life-sized figures of classic worthies, prophets and sibyls figured in the program. On the mid-pilaster of the hall Perugino placed his own portrait in bust-form. It is probable that Raphael, who in boyhood, towards 1496, had been placed by his uncles under the tuition of Perugino, bore a hand in the work of the vaulting.
Perugino was made one of the priors of Perugia in 1501. On one occasion Michelangelo told Perugino to his face that he was a bungler in art (goffo nell arte): Vannucci brought an action for defamation of character, unsuccessfully. Put on his mettle by this mortifying transaction, he produced the masterpiece of the Madonna and Saints for the Certosa of Pavia, now disassembled and scattered among museums: the only portion in the Certosa is God the Father with cherubim. An Annunciation has disappeared; three panels, the Virgin adoring the infant Christ, St. Michael and St. Raphael with Tobias are among the treasures of the National Gallery, London. This was succeeded in 1504-1507 by the Annunziata Altarpiece for the high altar of the Basilica dell'Annunziata in Florence, in which he replaced Filippino Lippi. The work was a failure, being accused of lack of innovation. Perugino lost his students; and towards 1506 he once more and finally abandoned Florence, going to Perugia, and thence in a year or two to Rome.
Pope Julius II had summoned Perugino to paint the Stanza of the Incendio del Borgo in the Vatican City; but he soon preferred a younger competitor, Raphael, who had been trained by Perugino; and Vannucci, after painting the ceiling with figures of God the Father in different glories, in five medallion-subjects, retired from Rome to Perugia from 1512. Among his latest works, many of which decline into repetitious studio routine, one of the best is the extensive altarpiece (painted between 1512 and 1517) of the church of San Agostino in Perugia, also now dispersed.
Perugino's last frescoes were painted for the church of the Madonna delle Lacrime in Trevi (1521, signed and dated), the monastery of Sant'Agnese in Perugia, and in 1522 for the church of Castello di Fortignano. Both series have disappeared from their places, the second being now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. He was still at Fontignano in 1523 when he died of the plague. Like other plague victims, he was hastily buried in an unconsecrated field, the precise spot now unknown.
Vasari is the main source stating that Perugino had very little religion, and openly doubted the soul's immortality. Perugino in 1494 painted his own portrait, now in the Uffizi Gallery, and into this he introduced a scroll lettered Timete Deum. That an open disbeliever should inscribe himself with Timete Deum seems odd. The portrait in question shows a plump face, with small dark eyes, a short but well-cut nose, and sensuous lips; the neck is thick, the hair bushy and frizzled, and the general air imposing. The later portrait in the Cambio of Perugia shows the same face with traces of added years. Perugino died possessed of considerable property, leaving three sons.
In 1495 he signed and dated a Deposition for the Florentine convent of Santa Chiara (Palazzo Pitti). Towards 1496 he frescoed a Crucifixion, commissioned in 1493 for Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi, Florence (the Pazzi Crucifixion). The attribution to him of the picture of the marriage of Joseph and the Virgin Mary (the Sposalizio) now in the museum of Caen, which indisputably served as the original, to a great extent, of the still more famous Sposalizio painted by Raphael in 1504 (Accademia di Brera, Milan), is now questioned, and it is assigned to Lo Spagna. A vastly finer work of Perugino's was the polyptych of the Ascension of Christ painted ca 1496–98 for the church of S. Pietro of Perugia, (Municipal Museum, Lyon); the other portions of the same altarpiece are dispersed in other galleries.
In the chapel of the Disciplinati of Città della Pieve is an Adoration of the Magi, a square of 6.5 m containing about thirty life-sized figures; this was executed, with scarcely credible celerity, from the 1st to 25 March (or thereabouts) in 1505, and must no doubt be in great part the work of Vannucci's pupils. In 1507, when the master's work had for years been in a course of decline and his performances were generally weak, he produced. nevertheless, one of his best; pictures — the Virgin between Saint Jerome and Saint Francis, how in the Palazzo Penna. In the church of S. Onofrio in Florence is a much lauded and much debated fresco of the Last Supper, a careful and blandly correct but uninspired work; it has been ascribed to Perugino by some connoisseurs, by others to Raphael; it may more probably be by some different pupil of the Umbrian master.
Among his pupils were Raphael, upon whose early work Perugino's influence is most noticeable, and Giovanni di Pietro (lo Spagna).
Arte in Toscana | Giorgio Vasari, Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architettori (1550) | Pietro Perugino
Lives of the Most Eminent Painters Sculptors and Architects, Giorgio Vasari | download pdf
Pietro Perugino and the Trasimeno lake scenary | Renaissance and Mannerism Painting in Città della Pieve, Paciano, Panicale and Castiglione del Lago
[Fonte: PERUGINO: Meglio maestro d’Italia | www.correrenelverde.it]
Vittoria Garibaldi, Perugino. Catalogo completo. Octavo, Firenze 2000
Vittoria Garibaldi, Perugino, in Pittori del Rinascimento, Scala, Firenze 2004
Scheda nel sito ufficiale del museo | www.louvre.fr
Giorgio Vasari | Le vite de' più eccellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori italiani, da Cimabue insino a' tempi nostri | Pietro Perugino
Arte in Toscana | Pietro Perugino
Arte in Toscana | Pietro Perugino in Firenze
Pietro Perugino, autoritratto dall'affresco del Collegio del Cambio a Perugia, 1497–1500,
Collegio del Cambio, Perugia
Perugino, St. Anthony of Padua and St. Sebastian, 1476-1478
Pietro Perugino, Trasfigurazione
Madonna col Bambino in trono, 1522, affresco, 135x67,5 cm, Fontignano, Oratorio dell'Annunziata
Panicale is a tiny village of Umbria, located between Città della Pieve and Perugia (33 km). It is a characteristic hamlet dominating the Lake Trasimeno from a rocky spur 431 m high. The town center still preserves the look of the ancient medieval castle with walls and two gates, the first one opens towards Florence and the second one towards Perugia.
Set on the eastern slope of Mount Petravella, Panicale has been called the most beautiful natural terrace overlooking the Trasimeno Lake. Panicale offers its visitors natural beauty as well as historic and monumental sites.
The earliest settlements can probably be traced back to 2000 years before Christ. During the following centuries many aspects of the town were changed by the variation in population among Indo-Europeans, Umbrians, Etruscans and Romans. For many years, Panicale's destiny was tied to Perugia's. This fact is supported by the heraldic coat-of-arms that bears the Perugia Griffin next to the symbol of the Castle (a tower decorated with ears of Italian millet). The first compilation of a communal statute dates back to 1316, drawn up in Latin by the notary Pietro di Vannuccio and later translated into vernacular in 1484 for wider distribution.
The Renaissance for Panicale is a period of economic, urban and artistic development that witnesses the completion of valuable reknown artworks thanks to the presence of "Il Perugino" and his students. In 1543, Pope Paul III bestowed on Panicale the title of "Honoured Land". Today it is considered one of the most attractive Italian small villages.
There are various meanings attributed to Panicale's name: beginning with the most probable: "The place where altars worship the god Pan"(Pani calet), to the poetic: "where everything is beautiful" (Pan Kalon), concluding with the meaning explicitly appearing on the coat-of-arms, "the place where Italian millet is cultivated" (pan colis).
Panicale still conserves the typical structure of a medieval castle, at one time surrounded by a moat, and having two gates; one facing Perugia and the other towards Florence. Panicale's three main squares are enclosed within series of concentric ellipses.
The best starting point for visiting Panicale is definitely the Church of Saint Sebastian inside of which Il Perugino's very beautiful fresco, "The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian" (1505) can be viewed. The fresco takes up the entire rear wall space of the Church and its sense of lightness is very impressive.
The same landscape which has just been admired outside, is reproduced in all its legendary fame as the background for what many have defined as the "Archers' dance" around the Saint.
In this same church a fresco of the enthroned Madonna, detached from the Saint Augustine Church and attributed to the painter Spagna, is conserved.
The faces of the illustrious figures in Panicale's history may be discovered by visiting the Pinoteca (painting gallery) collected in the rooms of the city hall: 31 canvases portray clergy, valiant soldiers and men of letters, etc.
This collection is named after Francesco Mariottini who commissioned it during the latter half of the 18th century. The ferocious Boldrino, the Jesuit Virgilio Ceppari, the famous Masolino, this same Mariottini, they all seem to be observing everything that occurrs in the city hall rooms.
Then if you enter the town through the Perugia Gate you will immediately notice the fountain from 1473, built in travertine marble.
This used to be the town's ancient well that was extended underneath the whole square. From the same spot, the rear walls of the impressive Collegiate Church of Saint Michael the Archangel can be seen. The Church, dated back to the 11th century has a typical Baroque interior design.
In the apse you can admire "The Annunciation" fresco attributed to Tommasino Fini called Masolino (1383-1447). On the rear left side the painting on wood, "The Adoration of the Shepherds" (1519) by Gianbattista Caporali (1476-1560), a student of Il Perugino.
Noteworthy is the Morettini organ (1835) restored on the occasion of the Jubilee 2000. Two other canvases adorn the Church; the canvas of "The Last Supper" (1764) by an anonymous painter and the "Crucifixion among Saint Ignatius Loyola, St. Philip the Apostle, St. Francis Saverio and St. Jerome", attributed to Bartolomeo Barbiani (1640) both can be found along the right aisle
Across from the Collegiate Church you will notice the residence where the valiant commander of mercenary troops, Boldrino Paneri (1331-1391) lived. It was said of him that he was "luck to his friends and misfortune to his enemies".
Going beyond the famous residence you may climb up to the highest point in the town, Masolino Square dominated by the Podest Palace from the 14th century. This building constructed in Lombard-Gothic style, a work of the Comacine masters, preserves the town's historic and notarial archives.
Going down through the narrow streeets you quickly reach the Ceasare Caporali Theatre.
Originally built in the 18th century, it was later decorated by the architect Caproni in 1858.
One of the smallest Umbrian theatres, with 154 seats, a wooden structure decorated with stuccoes, it still conserves the curtain painted in 1859 by Mariano Piervittori dedicated to the handing over of the keys of Perugia to Boldrino Paneri. Leaving the Florentine Gate, just a few steps further you reach the former Saint Augustine Church (16th century). Since 2001, it has been used to house the Tulle Museum and is dedicated to Anita Belleschi Grifoni. Inside the church there are remains of antique frescoes attributed to Perugino's school and the precious altar done in grey stone (pietra serena) by Giambattista di Cristoforo from Cortona (1513).
They serve as a frame for several needlework pieces that are typical of the Panicale needlework technique known as "Ars panicalensis" This hand-made embroidery on tulle was revived in the early 1900s by Anita Belleschi Grifoni and was eventually exported beyond regional and national borders.
A short distance from the St. Augustine Church, another church worth visting is the Madonna della Sbarra, located on the previous site of the toll house. The comune ordered its construction in 1600.
The Church's interior is subdivided into three naves with five altars.
The main altar consists of four imposing gilded angels serving as pillars for the architectural structure. On the upper floor the antique hermitage houses a collection of sacred objects and vestments (from the 17th to the 19th century) divided among showcases according to different liturgical and doctrinal periods.
Within the municipal confines, Tavernelle is considered to be the economic, productive and commercial heart. The recently restored Lion fountain and the central square are worth seeing.
Just a few kilometres from Panicale, there is another example of the creative Renaissance period, the Sanctuary of the Mongiovino Madonna, a continual pilgrim destination.
What began as a simple shrine became the rich complex seen today. It was consecrated in 1646 and many talented artists contributed their work during the Renaissance and Mannerist periods. While 19th century historiography attributes the Sanctuary's architectural design to Bramante, other documents preserved in the Augu
sta library in Perugia attest to the fact that it was Rocco da Vicenza the original architect. The works of such great artists as Nicol Circignani, Giovanni Wraghe and Hendrich Van den Broek.
The Sanctuary of the Grondici, about 10 kilometres from Panicale offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding valleys.
The Church conserves an image that depicts the Virgin and Child between Saints Sebastian and Rocco painted on canvas in 1495 by Gregorio Gregori called the Teuton.
[Source: The History | Comune di Panicale | www.comune.panicale.pg.it]